Andreas Whittam Smith: A revolt against the ruling elite

For some years, the American electorate has been voting consistently against the party in power

Share
Related Topics

A senior cleric in the Church of England this week compared the likely introduction of women bishops to the national situation in January 1939, when Britain was getting ready to repulse Hitler and the Nazis.

Insults are the weapons of choice in class and culture wars. This is why I take seriously the contempt that America's political opponents express for each other. The wounding comments that American politicians have been directing at each other during the midterm elections are symptomatic of a troubled body politic. Barack Obama certainly knows how to wound. Early in his presidency, he said that limited economic prospects and narrow social horizons produce "bitter" Americans who "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like us". And then, the other day, he explained that "part of the reason that our politics seems so rough right now and that facts and science and argument do not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we're hardwired not to always think clearly when we are scared". In short, ordinary Americans are "bitter" and bigoted and not "always able to think clearly."

It is because of remarks such as these that the Republican John Boehner, who will be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, was able to say recently that Washington had been "disrespecting the American people".

I emphasise these de haut en bas comments because in their patronising way, they are probably more distressing than the notorious remarks attributed to, say, Glenn Beck, the conservative talk show host, and others like him. Mr Beck said of Mr Obama recently that he had repeatedly shown a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.

For some years, the American electorate has been voting consistently against the party in power. Mr Obama is the third president in succession to lose control of the House of Representatives at the halfway point. More than 70 per cent of Republicans embrace the Tea Party, but the feeling is not reciprocated. If conservatives could vote for the Tea Party as a party, they would prefer it to the Republicans.

In his book published earlier this year, The Ruling Class: how they corrupted America and what we can do about it, Professor Angelo Codevilla, who teaches at Boston and Stanford, writes: "Our rulers, both Democrats and Republicans, gladden the hearts of some one-third of the electorate – most Democratic voters plus a few Republicans". This Ruling Class, he adds, has a party: the Democrats. It is where you find Harvard graduates (such as the President), Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, the Hollywood crowd and media types. Professor Codevilla argues that the first tenet of the Ruling Class is that its members are the best and brightest, while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist and dysfunctional unless properly constrained.

The Tea Party movement provides a refuge. It is, Professor Codevilla says, the most obvious evidence of the American people's desire to be responsible for their own lives. It joins together Independents, Republicans and not a few Democrats into what Professor Codevilla calls the Country Class. It may be defined by its lack of connection with government and attitudes opposite to those of the Ruling Class. Its most distinguishing characteristics are marriage, children, and religious practice.

On Tuesday night, the exit polls showed a strong majority agreed with the statement "government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals". Here is the very essence of what troubles the United States. It is the Ins versus the Outs, the Governing Class against the rest, the liberal establishment versus the proles.

Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show, described last weekend's Washington rally as one which would not: "Ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or look down our noses at the heartland, or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are, and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus, and not be enemies." Here is hope.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Technical Sales Manager

£45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...

Humanities Teacher

£110 - £135 per day + Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone: Outstan...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former Tory MP Douglas Carswell (right) has joined Ukip but this won't stop the existing Ukip candidate for Clacton, Roger Lord, from challenging the ex-MP for the right to represent the party in the forthcoming by-election  

Carswell’s defection was a nightmare for Cameron but disaffected Tories would be wise to stay put

Steve Richards
 

A day to remember a different kind of conflict – ours with the natural world

Michael McCarthy
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor